After a divorce, many details of your daily life and routine are governed by the court orders that determined custody and parenting arrangements. A small variation in this routine can seem trivial, but technically it is a departure from the family court’s order.
Little details can blow up to a major confrontation.
One party may ask to switch their weekends from the first weekend of the month to the second weekend of the month and, for a while, this is an amicable agreement. However, if something comes up and the other parent gets angry and recants on the oral agreement, you could end up facing a motion for violating the judgment.
In that scenario, you haven’t followed what was written out in the judgment. You haven’t obtained the written agreement, the mediation, or the phone conference that was outlined in the judgment. It looks like you are in violation of the order, when really it is the other party who violated what you agreed to on the phone.
You don’t want it to be your word against theirs.
Not having that modification in writing puts you in a poor position before the court. Without the written agreement as evidence to show the court it becomes your word against their word.
In some extreme situations, the other party may even call the police if you show up for the weekend that you agreed to on the phone and the other parent no longer wants to cooperate with that agreement. They would be able to show the police the judgment, and the police would then have to enforce that judgment.
The written agreement can be very informal.
A written agreement does not have to be a formal, notarized document. It can be anything as simple as an email or even a text thread. You let them know that that your work schedule changed and ask to switch days, and they reply saying they are okay with that change. Even this email or text exchange can be proof should a third party ever need to intervene in your situation.
Ideally, however, you will put the agreement in writing and have both parties sign it. Even when you are on good terms or the oral arrangement is amicable, the due diligence of getting it in writing can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
To sum up, it is always best practice to put everything in writing. Signing it is ideal, but even an exchange of emails or texts can be accepted as a written agreement. It protects you against what can go wrong with an oral agreement.